19 Nov, 2019 @ 07:58
1 min read

“She sent a seductive picture to Franco, and it worked” – the incredible story of doomed US pilot Harold E. Dahl retold through never-before-seen letters

Screenshot 2019 11 19 At 7 57 53 Am

WHEN American pilot Harold E. Dahl was captured and sentenced to death by Francoist forces during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), his wife made a daring move.

Edith Rogers, then in the United States, sent a personal letter to Franco attaching a seductive photograph of herself in a white dress with a plunging neckline in a last-ditch bid for clemency.

And it worked.

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DARING: The picture Edith Rogers sent to Franco that succeeded in granting clemency for her then-husband, Harold E. Dahl

Never-before seen material from the incredible story of Republican-sympathiser Dahl’s later repatriation to the USA novel has now been published in the novel With Lead in the Wings by the journalist Pedro Corral.

The tale – which was turned into a 1940 Hollywood sensation Arise, My Love – is now embellished with two letters Dahl wrote to his wife from a Salamanca prison.

The first of the letters recovered by Corral is dated July 21, 1937, and in it Dahl shows a grave concern that newspapers will grab hold of his story.

“To me this means a disaster, since all of America will know about me,” he wrote, complaining that it would probably take a long time to resolve his situation, and by then ‘I will probably have lost my nationality’.

Instead, Dahl urges his wife to secure the money he was promised by the Spanish Republic for his participation in the war – he wanted $1,000 for every enemy airplane that he shot down.

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UNSEEN: One of two never-before-letters uncovered by Pedro Corral for his new book With Lead in the Wings

In the second letter he presses his wife to secure the $6,500 he believes he’s owed, so he can buy ‘fruit and candy’.

“It is so important to collect all the money because it’s all we have in this world,” he wrote.

Author Corral managed to uncover that Dahl was later paid just $2,000, for downing an Italian Fiat CR-32 and a German Heinkel-51, even though he had shot down at least five aircraft. His colleagues considered him an ‘excellent’ combat pilot.

Efforts to secure the documents saw Corral scouring Spanish Air Force historical archives, where the two never-before-seen letters were stored after being confiscated by Francoist forces.

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SORRY, HONEY: Despite her bold move to secure her husband’s liberty, Rogers was unfaithful to her husband during their three-year separation

The reuniting of the material with readers enthralled by the story did not mirror Dahl’ return to the USA in 1940, however. 

Photographs present to witness the sensational return caught Rogers with a distant expression – in the three-year separation from her husband, she had found another lover.

Joshua Parfitt

Joshua James Parfitt is the Costa Blanca correspondent for the Olive Press. He holds a gold-standard NCTJ in multimedia journalism from the award-winning News Associates in Twickenham. His work has been published in the Sunday Times, Esquire, the Mail on Sunday, the Daily Mail, the Sun, the Sun on Sunday, the Mirror, among others. He has appeared on BBC Breakfast to discuss devastating flooding in Spain, as well as making appearances on BBC and LBC radio stations.

Contact me now: [email protected] or call +44 07960046259. Twitter: @jjparfitt

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